03/15/2018 Nutrition & Recipes
Are there greens you can, and should, be eating that aren’t kale? Yes! Explore the variety of easily accessible leafy greens that you can eat (and drink) to nourish yourself with an abundance of vitamins and other nutrients.
Kale gets a lot of press for good reason. Studies have found that it’s packed with nutrients like beta-carotene and vitamin C, and it’s also high in fiber. Kale quickly became the king of greens because it’s so versatile. Because of its high fiber content, kale holds up well in just about any method of cooking. Steam, sauté, bake, or blend it raw in smoothies. It’s a common green that’s available at most grocery stores, so it’s easy to incorporate into your daily diet.
You know kale is great, but there are other leafy greens that also pack a nutritious punch. Each and every leafy green has its own special qualities, so it’s important to eat a variety to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients these leafy greens have to offer.
This small, delicate leafy green is highly underrated. You may overlook watercress because you don’t know what to do with it, or you don’t know its benefits. Similar to kale, it is very high in vitamin K, which promotes the natural coagulation factors in your blood. If you bruise easily, get bloody noses, or have heavy periods, watercress is your friend! According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, regular consumption of watercress can also reduce damage to DNA, which helps reduce the risk of diseases like cancer.
How to enjoy: To incorporate watercress into your life, add it to smoothies, mix it in salads, or add it to your egg scrambles. It has a neutral flavor, so it blends well with almost anything!
Parsley is so much more than a garnish on a plate. Studies suggest that this bright leafy green is high in antioxidants and has natural diuretic properties. This is helpful for reducing hypertension and edema caused by fluid retention. Because parsley is a diuretic, it can be beneficial for the renal system because it helps with the continuous flushing of the kidneys and urinary tract.
How to enjoy: Parsley is delicious mixed in salads, blended into smoothies, added to pesto, or added to soups. You can also steep fresh parsley in hot water to make fresh parsley tea. This is great to consume during menstruation to reduce bloating and water retention.
Microgreens are small in size, but they’re mighty. Microgreens are exactly what they sound like—small greens! They are the tiny shoots of the larger mature plant. They come in many varieties like broccoli, kale, and arugula, to name but a few.
Microgreens are more sustainable than their larger versions because they use less water and grow faster. They are easy to grow in your own home, as they require minimal water and small spaces. These smaller greens also pack an extra nutritional punch; the broccoli microgreen has been found to provide about 175 percent more nutrients than its mature form.
How to enjoy: Microgreens can be added to smoothies, salads, or wraps for extra nutrition. The more the better!
4. Collard Greens
Collard greens are fibrous and loaded with vitamin A and vitamin K, and are a good source of magnesium. Due to their high fiber content, they are fantastic for not only adding more nutrients to your diet but also for increasing your intake of dietary fiber.
How to enjoy: Because of the large surface area of collard greens, they work well as a wrap for sandwiches, tacos, or spring rolls. In addition, because they are so fibrous, they hold up well when cooked, so you can chop them up to add to stews and soups.
5. Swiss Chard
Swiss chard comes in many forms, but in most grocery stores you will see the green and rainbow varieties. No matter which type you choose, it will be a nutritious option. In just one Swiss chard leaf, you get approximately 59 percent of an adult’s daily requirement for vitamin A.
How to enjoy: This green is more delicate than collard greens, but it still holds up well in soups and stews. It is fantastic shredded and mixed into salads or used as a wrap in place of bread.
This bitter leafy green has become more popular in recent years, but still doesn’t get enough credit for its proven health benefits. Arugula is a potent anti-inflammatory. Due to its glucosinolates, a sulfur-containing chemical naturally found in arugula, arugula has been shown to reduce the incidence of colon and rectal cancers. The glucosinolates are broken down into active compounds to be used by the body for numerous other functions like cell protection. Arugula also contains phytochemicals that feature anti-viral properties.
How to enjoy: Because arugula has a bitter, peppery flavor, it pairs well with sweet vegetables like beets, sweet potatoes, carrots, and butternut squash.
7. Dandelion Greens
Dandelion greens contain anti-cancer properties. Dandelion is bitter, and its leaves have a long, edged shape. The strong bitter flavor turns many people off, but adding a few leaves to your morning smoothie with sweet fruits like mango or peaches helps mask the bitterness while drinking in all the powerful health benefits of dandelion. This is definitely a leafy green you’ll want to be incorporating into your diet as often as possible!
How to enjoy: Add a few dandelion greens to your morning smoothie and mask the bitterness with sweet fruits like mango, peaches, or bananas. Squeeze some citrus in there too!
Popeye knew what he was doing when he ate spinach. Loaded with iron and other blood-building nutrients, spinach is one of the most versatile leafy greens available; it’s neutral flavor mixes well in any culinary form.
How to enjoy: Eaten raw in salads, sautéed, stirred into soups and stews, blended in a smoothie, or chopped up and mixed with grain-based dishes, spinach has no boundaries. If you’re new to eating leafy greens, this is a great one to start with.
9. Mustard Greens
Mustard greens aren’t widely known by the general public, but have a great reputation in the world of nutrition. They are powerful in protecting your cells from damage, which provides anti-aging benefits and less risk for many types of cancer and other chronic diseases.
How to enjoy: They have a peppery flavor like arugula, and taste great sautéed with oil and garlic alongside roasted vegetables.
10. Bok Choy
Bok choy is versatile but highly underutilized. It’s part of the cabbage family (just like kale) and it contains similar health benefits, including cell protection, anti-inflammatory effects, and vitamin K. Bok choy is commonly used in Asian cooking, but can also be used in a variety of other cuisines.
How to enjoy: It can be baked, sautéed, or eaten raw. It has a mildly bitter flavor and doesn’t require much adulteration to make it taste delicious.
With an abundance of leafy greens available, it’s time to take a break from kale and begin incorporating all of these equally as nutritious greens into your diet. With each one providing its own unique health benefits, you can rest assured that you’re nourishing your body with each big green mouthful. Which leafy green are you going to try next?
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.
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